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Aberdeen 3 - 2 St Johnstone

HT Score: Aberdeen 1 - 1 St Johnstone

Youth Cup Quarter Final
Aberdeen scorers: Bavidge 19, Mackie 45, Stewart 89.
St Johnstone scorers: Dair 7, Dair 71

23/01/2024 | KO: 17:00

Young Dons into last four after dramatic finish

Aberdeen Under 18’s advanced to the semi-final of the SFA Youth Cup after a dramatic night at Cormack Park.

Scott Anderson’s side were forced once again to do things the hard way after an early red card meant they had to play 89 minutes a man down – just like they had done in the previous round. It was a very tough ask for the young Dons against a very good Saints side. But goals from Alfie Bavidge, Fraser Mackie and a remarkable late goal from skipper Alfie Stewart eventually secured the win, before having to endure six minutes of injury time with only nine men.

It was quite a game…

The young Dons had defeated Caledonian Braves in Bellshill in the third round before an outstanding performance against a strong Kilmarnock side earned them a place in the quarter final. St Johnstone, had come through tricky ties against Motherwell and Hibernian for the chance to compete for a semi-final spot.

The Dons was able to call on Kelty Hearts loanee Bavidge for the cup clash, he partnered Mackie up top. Findlay Marshall and Stewart, on loan at Edinburgh City and Peterhead respectively formed a strong midfield pair and there was a place for new Banks O’ Dee loanee Brendan Hamilton at left back.

Aberdeen were dealt an all too familiar and cruel blow just two minutes into the tie when Lewis Carrol was shown a straight red card as he was adjudged to clip the heels of the Saints attacker while being the last man. History had repeated itself, against Kilmarnock in the previous round it was the suspended Ellis Clark who had received his marching orders just minutes into the clash for a similar offence.

Things went from bad to worse after seven minutes when an Aberdeen short pass back to Vitols was intercepted by Brodie Dair who capitalised on his gifted opportunity by rounding the keeper and passing into the empty net. It was a nightmare start for the young Dons who had it all to do if they wanted to progress to the next round of the cup, and they only had ten men to do it.

Aberdeen were able to compose themselves well following the double early setback and were actually able to enjoy large spells of possession in the St Johnstone half. Bavidge looked lively, his pace a constant threat in behind the Saints back line. From the wide areas Hamilton and Cammy Wilson were both being allowed to take on the visitor’s fullbacks and get quality balls into the box, but there was no immediate response.

That response arrived just before the 20-minute mark courtesy of a superb goal from Bavidge. The powerful forward ran the channel well and had the St Johnstone defence backpedalling before he was able to complete a neat one two and unleash a venomous strike from the edge of the box that Evan Myles could only get a weak hand onto before landing in the top corner.

It was a sensational goal, and the ten men of Aberdeen had a deserved leveller.

St Johnstone hit back following the equaliser with spells of their own possession, but they were unable to carve out any meaningful opportunities.

The goal scorer Dair looked the biggest threat to Vitols’s goal, but he could only smash an effort on the angle well wide off his intended target when a chance opened up.

Before the whistle for half-time Aberdeen had the ball in the back of the net only to be thwarted by the linesmen’s flag.

It was their turn to capitalise on a lose back pass, Mackie squaring for Marshall to tap in from close range, but the flag was well up.

HT Aberdeen 1 St Johnstone 1

A barrel load of 2nd half chances wasn’t enough for the Saints to leave Cormack Park with the victory, instead an action packed 45 saw the Dons grab a spot in the semi-final courtesy of some late drama.

Mackie put Aberdeen ahead for the first time in the match when he got on the end of a searching long ball, the young forward was able to create a goal out of very little, outmuscling the Saints centre half’s as he charged towards goal and applied a final touch over the keeper. It wasn’t the tidiest of finishes, but the striker showed great determination.

2-1 Aberdeen.

St Johnstone ramped up the pressure and Vitols was forced into a strong double save from close range soon after Mackie’s goal. Aitken was next to try his luck, his effort wide of the mark. Williams was able to dispose Fletcher Boyd in the middle of the park, drive forward and eventually play in McMillan, his shot narrowly off target.

It wasn’t all St Johnstone however, the young Dons were finding moments to get forward when they could, Boyd tried his luck from the edge of the box, Alfie Stewart the same, the captain’s effort held.

With just under 20 to play Dair hauled his side level with a long-range effort that was able to sail across Vitols and into the back of the net to make it two apiece.

The impressive Ben McCrystal perhaps could have given his side the lead, he spurned a few chances that on another day could have led to a different story for the Dons.

The cup tie looked destined for extra time as the game raced into the final period, Akindileni rose highest from a corner but could only head over the bar.

With a minute on the clock remaining, it was Stewart who was able to find the back of the net in rare circumstances and give Aberdeen the late lead they were craving.

From a corner the captains effort looped into the box and then back towards goal, over the helpless keeper and into the roof of the net.

Incredibly the ten men of Aberdeen led the tie going into injury time.

In an action-packed tie there was more drama in store and after already surviving three minutes of the St Johnstone bombardment Aberdeen were forced into trying to see out the tie with nine men. Hamilton, who had harshly gone into the referee’s book after 83 minutes, received a second yellow on the far touchline for a foul. There was one last push required, now it was the nine men of Aberdeen who had to deliver it.

A flurry of corners and long balls were well handled by the young Dons, particularly Vitols who came out bravely to punch clear a dangerous looking corner, before clutching a shot from range and collapsing to the ground to protect the ball.

With one last launch off the ball up the park the referee eventually had the whistle to his lips to signal full-time and confirm Aberdeen’s place in the semi-final after a challenging evening that saw them overcome adversity and push right until the very end.
Aberdeen Teamsheet
Vitols, Watson, Hamilton, Carrol, Stewart, Wilson, Akindileni, Boyd, Mackie (Green 78), Bavidge, Marshall.

Unused Subs: Smilie, Searle, Ross, Teasdale, Masson.

Bookings:  Hamilton (83),  Hamilton (93),  Carrol (2),  Hamilton (93).
St Johnstone Teamsheet
Myles, Brookfield, Bright, Williams, Ellison, Aitken, Dair, McCrystal, McMillan, Williams, Fleming Unused Subs: Tulloch, Nicol, Binnie, Hamil, Raine
Venue: Cormack Park, Aberdeen
Next Match
27 Apr 2024 / 15:00 / Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen